Why don´t we write letters anymore?

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I used to receive many letters and cards, letters from my father when he lived abroad, letters from my friends after I left them and moved to Norway, letters from the one/ones who I was in love with, and Christmas and birthday cards containing long texts from a good friend who lives in the UK and who I haven´t seen since I left the country 18 years ago. I still have contact with many of them but through other channels, Messenger and text messaging in particular. Letters just ceased to come, I can´t remember when I received my last letter, it must’ve been ages now. I´ve contributed to the development of this “letter-less” society as I´m one of those who don´t write letters anymore. (P.s. I did write a kind of letter last summer but I´m afraid that it might not be counted as a letter, it was more like a very long note and I didn’t post it but passed it to that person who was supposed to read it.)

I lived in Leeds when I was studying my first degree, I wasn’t a particular sociable person so I often found myself in the library or my dorm room when I didn’t have classes. I must have felt terribly lonely on that Sunday morning, and that feeling then triggered the impulsive act of formulating the thoughts on paper, a piece of paper in light-purple. The addressee was the kind owner of the bakery I worked for before I moved to England. You might wonder why the only letter I wrote in England was sent to her and not someone in my family. Well, I don´t have a good reason for that, it was just that her warm smile and gentle supportive words suddenly popped up in my mind and reinforced that feeling, a longing for home. In the letter I told her about my life in Leeds, and how I was doing with my studies. Many years later, when we were having a coffee in the cafe at the main train station, I was told how pleasantly surprised she was when she received the letter.

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When I was having a clear-up in my house some time ago, I found a card which I received from the only friend I made in the UK, just a few days before my departure. I certainly didn’t realise how deep the thoughts were when I first read it, but when rereading it 18 years later, the implicit message, the sadness expressed over someone’s departure became apparent. There was so much care and concern that had been left unnoticed all these years.

However, I rarely reread old letters as I try to avoid getting sentimental, especially when the affection expressed in the letters has definitely become the past.

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Receiving a handwritten letter has become a luxury, we´ve long passed the Shakespeare´s time while affection was most likely expressed through lengthy and personal letters. Will my children receive love letters, like those I received which made me feel cherished and being loved? Will they be bothered to sit down in a dark corner and declare love by turning their thoughts into words? Or will they just text a few sentences together with some emojis to the ones they fall in love with? It’s hard to tell, but I hope they’ll rediscover the pleasure of writing a letter, sealing the envelope and then putting a stamp on it.  It’s a magical process, isn’t it?

(This post is particularly dedicated to Liv and Paul, thank you both for making my life a more meaningful one.)

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Author: Isabelle

Content writer / editor & Language advisor

17 thoughts on “Why don´t we write letters anymore?”

  1. Major portion of letters either I received or wrote in my life are ones from my military service. You’re isolated from “outside world” yet have a ton of amount of time to think. I was in my early 20s, sentimental, in love with someone. Naturally you become a writer – regardless of being good or bad at writing.
    For those who have someone that write letters for them, “mail time” was like the most anticipated, even sacred time of the day. You could see some faces with delight or excitement, some disappointment. I wasn’t different.
    Now I don’t have most of those letters because I got rid of them. The reason is simple. They became “a past.” For me there’s no point to go back there.
    I think handwritten letters will survive generations to come because it still contains some value. Though electric communication channels have replaced most of its functionalities, its sentiments can’t be easily replaced. Rather I think that handwritten letters will feel even more personal, special to those who receive them among Twitter, Snapchat, etc. I’ve recently read a piece about benefits of regular handwriting. Though its focus was more on its practicality, anyway I was glad to see that writing letters sill finds its way to the future. 🙂

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    1. You have an incredible ability of making deep reflections, Ethan! Your thoughts have activated my thinking process. That’s why I can’t send you a reply straight away, I need time to absorb your words and make my own reflections. Interesting to hear that the majority of letters you received and sent was when you served in the military, that was, when you were “isolated ” from the outside world. I think I understand what you meant – I can sense that feeling. My desire for writing is often triggered by a sense of sentimentality, though it’s not the only source. We’re surrounded by digital media nowadays, it’s fast and effective. But the value of handwritten letters, as you said, cannot easily be replaced. The moment you seal the envelope and put the letter in the postbox, or the moment you find the long-awaited letter in your mailbox, it’s a magical feeling, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, Ethan! Very much appreciated 😊

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      1. thanks for the kind words 🙂
        I was thinking about my days in military service. Letters, phone calls, visits.. They were all limited and restricted to some extend. Now come to think of it, it was those restrictions that made so-called “analogue communications” more precious and special. If you have an abundance of, say, apple, you wouldn’t appreciate it as much as someone who has just one apple.
        These days, nothing is “long-awaited” which actually is going against the world. Who likes to wait? 🙂
        However, it’s worth to ask ‘Is “fast” always good?’ If you run, maybe you will reach your goal sooner, faster but also you will miss flowers on the side of the road, clear blue sky above you and probably people around you. Can’t really which one is better. It eventually comes to down what it is that you choose in your life. 🙂

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    2. Thank you for the second comment, Ethan. It really makes me think. I used the expression “long-awaited” as a metaphor. You know when you’re waiting for a response from someone you care, the waiting time becomes longer than it actually is. That being said, we live in a world that effectiveness and efficiency is the norm. Perhaps we should slow down a bit sometimes, there’re small beautiful things around us that deserve our attention. I’ve got a quote here: Life is so beautiful, but sometimes we forget to look. I haven’t been to the military but I understand all your thoughts about it. Thank you. 😊

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  2. Hi, Isabelle,

    You are right but every generation uses the tool they have. So, now this is the one we have. But there are some advantages which are that you can write here your thoughts and ideas and we can read them and even write a word for you. And finally, the communication with others is the most important for human beings.
    I remember when I was young and wrote a letter to my mother… her letter came back two or three weeks later. Now we have the answer faster…
    Yes, it is different but even being nostalgics but must continue doing it even with the computer technology.

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    1. Hi Ptholome, very nice to hear your opinion on this, thank you! We live in a digital world, which gives us the opportunity to get connected with people in a faster and more effective way. You’re right that I wouldn’t have been able to get connected with you and other readers without this online blog. I hope digital media and handwritten letters could co-exist, the pleasure of writing and reading a letter shouldn’t be entirely ignored. There’re certain values in handwritten letters which I think are irreplaceable. Thank you, Ptholome! Good to have a chat with you 😊

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  3. Hi Isabelle,

    Nice to read about the writing letters. One thought comes to my mind, now we get an instant reply when we communicate by media channels, we don’t have to wait for ages. In my opinion waiting for the letter was a bit magical, you couldn’t wait for it checking a post box almost every day. And now, what do we have now? Teenagers don’t understand how it could be possible to wait for the letter, dinosaur era or something.

    I remember with awe the letters I exchanged with my friend whose I’d met at 10. We’d been on hospital treatment together for 2 moths. Never met afterward, but we’d carried on with writing letters. She is good at drawing so every time she’d drawn something special for me. I’d waited for that letter and replied as soon as I could.

    Now we still continue writing but throughout the email, it is not the same, unfortunately.

    best
    Agnes

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    1. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and touching story with me, Agnes! A beautiful friendship which started with similar experience and then strengthened by the exchange of letters. How precious it is to receive drawings together with letters! I think thoughts expressed in a letter is deeper than in an email. It requires more time to generate the thoughts, make the reflections, and then put the words on paper. It activates the thinking process and more feelings are involved compared to writing an “instant” email. I understand when you said you couldn’t wait for checking the mailbox, I remember I used to waiting for the postman to come in the afternoons. So good to hear about the lasting friendship between you and your friend. It’s a gift in life. Thank you 😊

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      1. Hi Isabelle,

        another thought – you can’t erase the words from paper easily, so that has to be thoughtful what you transfer on paper. Sometimes it is better to stop, think, write than send the quick email.

        best

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    2. Lately, I decided to send a postal car to some people I know from the Internet. They live far away from my country. it took even two weeks to arrive. But the cost was near 6 dollars for a postal card and the postal stamp. Of course, people were happy but I don’t think we are going to change our communication system. However, In the UK they send a lot of cards, for any event, all along the year. So they continue with this tradition.

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      1. Thanks for the comment Ptholome! Good they appreciated the cards and they must be surprised by your thoughtfulness! Like the UK, I think we still send cards to each other in Norway but I have a feeling that exchange of letters has become more uncommon. Digital media is definitely leading the way.

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      2. Hi Ptholome, I pressed “publish” button by a mistake when I was working on next blog post, pls. ignore the email notification you received. I´ll try to finish the post by Sunday/Monday. Wishing you a lovely day!

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    3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, Agnes! I can’t agree more. It takes time to organise and structure random thought and then put them on paper. A good text needs to be coherent and effectively conveys the message to the reader. I think writing a blog post is a bit like writing a good letter, I often spend a great amount of time to organise the text and make the best word choice though I know it will never be perfect. 😊

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  4. Hi Isabelle!
    Hi readers!
    I think all of us who reads this have some personal history of intensive writing (no matter in what medium). Like Ptholome sais — every period has its preferred communication channels. Today it’s mainly digital –Skype, WhatsApp, other messengers, email… Benefits are at hand: lower, well, almost no costs, the incredible speed and nearly an instant reaction from the other side.
    With writing handwritten letters today — it has got another dimension these days, I think. For those of us, who use digital channels as a daily routine, it may be a sign of a particular significance of this person to us. For example, I write personal notes (not really letters) to my son when I leave home in the morning (when he is still sleeping) — I wish him a good day, say him loving and kind words etc. At work, I write personal handwritten notes (on sticky notes) to the people at other departments with whoM we have to do regularly (like the guys in the finance or HR department), there I try and write some nice words of appreciation and kindness. Because I love getting such handwritten sticky notes from them as well. Handwritten notes are especially worthy in our today’s rushing stressful work and family lives, because they give us a very physical and personal sign of caring.
    Cheers,
    Cat

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    1. Thank you for the comment Cat! It’s a great and well-written blog post itself! So good that you reminded me of alternative versions of writing, I fully agree with you that writing notes is a practical and convenient form of handwriting. It gives a personal touch to the recipient, a feeling of warmth and concern. It’s lovely that you write notes to your son, how good he’ll feel when he reads the notes full of loving words from her mother. It can’t be a better start of the day. I also write notes to my children, and I certainly should do it more often. I left the notes in their lunch boxes, the words were almost always the same – my dearest boy/girl, enjoy your lunch and have a lovely day. Lots of love, mum. (I need to be a little more creative, surely:) I normally prepare their lunch boxes and it’s a good way to remind them of how much I care about them by writing them notes.
      Writing letters used to be an important part of my life, I miss it sometimes. But as you said, writing notes involves some of the similar magic, and I’ll definitely write more notes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me Cat! Highly appreciated! 😊

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. I wrote two letters last year and sent them to two good friends in America. And I received handwritten replies from them. It was a lovely experience. Great to have a chat, southern writer!

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